“Midnight” is an adaptation of a novel by Richard Zimler “Hunting Midnight” (www.zimler.com).
The year is 1798, May 1798. After completing 7 years old, John Zarco Stewart finds a love letter in the middle of the pages of “Fables of the Fox”. This letter will take John on his lifelong quest for love, unconditional, everlasting love.
At the tender age of 9, he meets Daniel, his best friend. Shortly after, he meets Violet, his first love. But Violet belongs to Daniel and Daniel belongs to Violet, and John loves them both enough to just want to see them happy. That, however, never happens as Violet is rapped by an uncle and disappears shortly after. Without Violet, Daniel finds no reason to live and kills himself drowning on the river. John is left alone to face the discovery of being a Jew, and to fight the demons of not being able to save his friends. And then he meets Midnight, a black man, no more than five feet tall, that returns from Africa with his father. Midnight will teach John about life, about slaves, about freedom, he will teach him how to live, how to love, how to escape the “hyena”. Until one day Midnight disappears, he dies. What happened to Midnight? Where did he die? How did he die? What happened to Violet? Where did she go? John will travel through stories, continents, cultures, in search of the truth, of life, and love lost.
INT. HORSE WAGON IN FRONT OF THE INN - DAY
Quickly and cunningly, Daniel and John loosen the knots of the tarpaulin and jump inside the wagon.
INSERT: BIRDCAGES ARE STACKED ON TOP OF BIRDCAGES AND BIRDS' FEATHERS FLY ABOUT EVERYWHERE AS THE AGITATED BIRDS FLAP THEIR WINGS INSIDE THEIR CAGES.
Are you sure this is the best way?
(Puts his hand on top of a cage with a parakeet in it)
What if they don't make it on their own?
Daniel stops trying to open the cage he was trying to break in to and stares at John.
It's better to die in the woods than to live in a cage.
Daniel opens the cage he was trying to open and releases the bird that was inside. John also opens his first cage and frees his first bird.
With quick gestures, Daniel and John open cage after cage and try to free all the birds from their incarceration. Some take longer than others. Daniel and John are surrounded and almost dressed in feathers as the cages become emptier by the second until there are no birds left in any cage.
INSERT: EMPTY CAGES. FEATHERS OF BIRDS FLY AROUND THE EMPTY CAGES.
Daniel looks at John and smiles, raises his fist in utter triumph. Daniel quickly removes the flour bag of his back and opens it taking eleven carved and painted birds out of it. He gives five of the birds to John and keeps six. Daniel carefully puts a carved bird in a cage on top of the perch as if it was a real live bird.
END OF JOHN POV
John puts a bird on the perch of an empty cage.
One by one each sculpture is placed on their due perch.
Daniel has one last bird in his hand.
We heard FOOTSTEPS coming closer and the Birdman clearing his throat.
Daniel looks at John. With his last bird in his hand, he puts it on the perch but it doesn't hold and falls with a BANG on the floor of the cage.
Daniel picks up the bird and puts it on its perch.
We heard the WHIP of the Birdman POP, the wagon begins to move with a bump.
John falls on his back and grabs hold of the tarpaulin to gain some balance.
(Gesturing franticly and in an almost inaudible voice)
Plucked and ready for the pot!
Daniel signals John to follow him and starts crawling to the back of the wagon. John follows him. Daniel raises the tarpaulin.
We're going to have to jump.
(Grabbing hold of John's arm)
Daniel, pulling John's arm, jumps out the moving wagon.
EXT. STREET - DAY
John rolls over the stones on the road. A horse NEIGHS and stops almost on top of John's head.
Hey, you there, air-head, what do you think you're doing?
John gets up, rubs his skinned knees and runs to the side of the road. He looks around searching for Daniel. Daniel runs to John.
(Spitting on his hand and cleaning John's wounds with it)
Does it hurt bad?
Not too bad.
You're braver than you look.
Daniel puts his arm over John's shoulder. They start to walk.
Daniel and John enter the bird market limping.
INT. BIRD MARKET - DAY
The Birdman is standing beside the wagon surrounded by a crowd that grows and looks at the cages with the birds' sculptors in it.
Woman, you're completely mad!
This bird right here…
(Picks one of the carved birds)
…this bird turned into wood when I touched it.
(Looks at her husband)
Explain that to me if you can!
It's a miracle. A miracle of St. John.
The crowd around the Birdman nods.
Daniel smiles at John poking him.
A MAN, with a mutilated ear, comes close to the wagon and pulls out a cage with a carved bird in it. He lifts it up in the air.
The girl speaks the truth! St. John turned the feathers into wood.
The Birdman spits on the floor, yanks the cage from the Man's hand.
Your head is the only thing that turned into wood here! Someone tricked me, that's what happened. And I'll find out who it was and then…
(Raises both hands in a threatening way)
…I'll strangle them! I have nothing now, nothing!
(Poking her husband's back)
Shut up stupid! This is witchcraft!
(Looks askance all around, speaks in a low tone)
We must have a very powerful enemy and you…
(Points at her husband)
…you should not provoke him!
Shut up woman! You're provoking me. Someone's going to pay for this, and if you want it to be you, all you have to do is keep on pushing me.
Daniel runs to the front of the crowd and places himself almost in front of the Birdman.
(With a clear voice)
Please sir, let us see the miracle!
(Looking menacingly at Daniel)
You… You just want to see how they made fun of me.
(Looks around at the crowd)
You're all against me!
Please sir, show us what St. John did!
CHORUS OF VOICES
Please sir, let us see!
The Birdman looks around through the crowd asking in unison to see. He gets the cages out of the wagon and throws them to the ground.
You have been chosen by St. John himself!
Furious, the Birdman looks at the Dwarf, the last person to raise her voice, and kicks a cage in her direction.
The cage rolls over to the ankles of a HUGE MERCHANT. The Merchant raises his cane in a threatening manner.
Some people in the crowd fall on their knees to pray for the miracle.
John looks around astonished at the scene. Daniel pulls him by the arm to a stand nearby where he crouches. John ducks as well.
So that you can hide.
Do as I tell you!
John stays behind the stand squatting.
Violet, at a convenient distance, looks at them both.
Cheep like a blackbird.
Mimic loudly the cheep of a blackbird!
The Birdman's Wife holds a carved bird in her hand.
We heard the TWEET of a blackbird.
The crowd opens their mouth in amazement. The Birdman's Wife passes out with one hand on her forehead. The Birdman shakes his head "no" in disbelieve close to his Wife laying down on the floor.
Violet smiles and looks at John. John points out Violet to Daniel. Daniel pulls John by the arm and approaches Violet.
What's your name?
Violet, go away!
I saw what you did.
Violet stares at John and Daniel, her arms crossed on her chest.
The Birdman closes in Daniel and John and quickly grabs John by the neck.
John kicks under the hand of the Birdman. He tries to set himself free but he is far away from the ground, way up in the air. Daniel kicks the Birdman.
Let him go!
The Birdman shakes John by the neck.
So it was you! It was you two!
John kicks violently coughing convulsively.
Daniel kicks the Birdman, but he doesn't even seem to notice it.
Violet spits on the Birdman's face. She spits again.
Bewildered, the Birdman puts John on the ground without letting him go and cleans his face on his sleeve.
Help! Someone, help us!
The Merchant approaches the Birdman.
I'm getting sick of you. Let the boy go!
The Birdman keeps grabbing John's collar.
The Merchant raises his cane and closes in the Birdman.
The Birdman keeps holding the collar.
The Merchant unloads his cane on the Birdman.
The Birdman falls to the ground helpless and lets John loose. John gets a few steps away from him.
But that was the rascal who mimicked the blackbird. I saw him myself!
Is this true?
The Birdman rises slowly.
Sir, I've been with him for hours and he hasn't let out a peep.
John looks astonished to Violet.
Sir, she's lying. I'm guilty!
John imitates the tweet of a blackbird.
The Merchant looks at John and opens his mouth amazed.
Extraordinary! Sing it again boy!
John looks at the Merchant. Mimics the TWEET of a yellow bird.
Around John, a small crowd starts to form, surprised by his abilities.
John imitates the TWEET of a canary. He imitates the TWEET of a hawk. He mimics the TWEET of a gull.
The crowd cheers.
That's all very nice and well boy, but you stole my birds.
The Merchant approaches the Birdman. The Birdman quivers. The Merchant gives two silver coins to the Birdman.
I believe these will make up for your loss.
The Birdman nods and disappears at a rapid pace.
John mimics the TWEET of two hummingbirds in dialogue.
John looks around at the crowd around him that continues to grow. Daniel and Violet are in the front line and smile.
He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath in preparation for his next imitation.
John opens his eyes. In front of him Grandma Rose is standing with a furious look on her face. Grandma Rose approaches John menacingly.
END OF JOHN POV
Grandma Rose takes John's hand and drags him through the crowd. People throw and offer him coins as he passes.
INT. JOHN'S LIVING ROOM - DAY
John enters the house by the hand of Grandma Rose.
Mary walks through the room from one side to the other, her eyes all red.
John! Thank God you're safe and sound!
Wait till I tell you the rogueries he's been doing while you were sleeping.
Mary examines John, squeezes his shoulders and looks at him.
Did anything happen to you?
John shakes his head "no".
Thank God! Now go upstairs and change those dirty closes. I'll be with you in a minute.
John climbs up the stairs.
Kat just got fired from a job that she hated, but that gave her the security she needed in life. John vouched to never speak again since, without "her", words seemed meaningless and futile. And then these two meet... This is the story of two totally different people who, against all odds, find each other and become best friends. John teaches Kat what is really important in life never uttering a word. Kat helps John to connect with someone and feel like words can be spoken once again.
EXT. BUSY STREET - DAY
Several people, from young to old, men and women, walk frantically through the street holding bags, suitcases, purses. Some of them walk in groups, talking lively and loudly. Others hold their cell-phone and speak at full volume. The rest of the people go in and out of the shops surrounding the street looking straight ahead and stepping rhythmically to the sound of the busy street, as if they knew where they were going.
Among a group of People, a small opening begins to form. In between bumps and as if they were being shoved around, a small window of air opens amid the compact mass of People.
KAT, maybe in her twenties, thirties, petit, squirms and is able to pierce through the crowd.
Holding a huge box, filled with papers, pens, pencils, office stuff, bigger than she is and hindering her vision, her eyes all red, her face with a pinkish hue, Kat collides with a LARGE WOMEN, on her forties, bags on both hands. The Large Women is roughly projected forward and looks back, to Kat that just keeps walking.
The Large Women nods and resumes her walking, far away from Kat.
Kat snivels. Concentrates on her walking. Snivels again. Kat shoves a CELL-PHONE LADY, about fifty, phone pressed tightly against her shoulder with her neck bent, as if the phone was already part of her body. The impact of the thrust knocks the cell-phone to the ground. Kat stops for a few seconds.
(picking up her phone and resuming her conversation)
Sorry doesn't exactly cut it young lady.
Kat snivels and starts walking again. Trying to hold the box against her shin and balancing it on her left arm, Kat stretches to reach her purse with her right hand. She sniffles. Kat stops. She is able to get her hand into her purse and begins to stir its content. Kat snivels.
Kat's hand finally gets out of her purse triumphantly holding a tissue. Assuredly she resumes her walk. Walking firmly, each step as an attack on the ground, Kat bumps into JOHN's back, maybe twenty-eight, very thin, tall, big wide eyes. Quickly, with the tissue still in her hand, she grabs the box with her two hands, before it falls to the ground. John, as he is thrown forward, drops the bag he was carrying on his shoulder. He picks it up.
Without a whiff of a reaction, John puts his bag back on his shoulder and walks away as if Kat wasn't even there and her voice was nothing but maybe a gentle breeze.
Kat stares at John's back. Sniveling, with her tissue in her hand holding the box, she frowns. Kat follows John with a rapid pace. As she catches up with him, she shovels her box against John's back. He keeps walking. She does it again. He still keeps walking. Kat kicks John on his leg. John looks back, a surprised look on his face.
(sniffing and talking breathlessly and in a squeaky voice)
I said I was sorry, didn't I? What? You think I did it on purpose? Do you think my sole purpose in life is to shovel you around? You think I got out today and thought to myself "What should I do today? Oh yeah, I know! I'll just bump into that guy with the girlish purse and with a silver spoon up his ass!". I'm sooo sorry to even have touched you mister… mister… man!
John looks at Kat, his big eyes even bigger, he shakes his head left and right saying no.
The very least you could have done was to look back. To acknowledge I exist. But no… You're way too important for that. Have you any idea how my day was so far? It's ten in the morning and do you even know? No… You don't even care, do you? So go on, go on with your life and your little bag. I'm so sorry I didn't see you there because of this stupid box… what's your excuse for not seeing me you moron? Go… Just go and leave me alone, why don't you? You imbecile!
John, frozen staring at Kat, starts waving his arms. He tries to communicate with big gestures, hand signals pointing at Kat and at himself, beating his chest and waving his head "no". He keeps moving his arms and hands in a sign language type of thing, but a very exuberant and weird one.
Kat opens her eyes wide and starts shaking her head.
I'm so sorry! I didn't know you were… well… you know… I'm so sorry.
John continues to gesture almost frantically trying to communicate.
(looking at John)
I'm really sorry but I have no idea what so ever of what you are saying. Just forget it, really! I'm really sorry, it was all me… I'm sorry!
John gestures but now in a more rhythmic way pointing to himself and to Kat, shaking his head and waving his hands.
(shakes her head)
I'm sorry but I really don't understand. I don't speak sign language.
John shakes his head negatively. He gets his bag and pulls a pen out of it. On the side of the box that is facing him, he writes something. He takes his time. Kat looks at him in utter silence.
John puts his pen back in his bag, waves Kat goodbye, turns around and leaves.
Kat tries to wave goodbye to John but the best she can do is to wave her tissue a little bit. Very slowly, Kat turns the box around and around till the side on which John wrote is facing her.
On the box, in big cap letters John wrote "I too don't speak sign language."
Kat looks ahead, her jaw dropped. John disappeared.